Puma leads out of Lisbon
Leg 8, the penultimate offshore bout in the Volvo Ocean Race from Lisbon to Lorient, France via the Azores island of San Miguel, got underway at 1200 UTC , with Puma leading the charge out of the Tagus River. But most significant is that with two offshores and two in-ports remaining, this Volvo Ocean Race is the closest it has ever been with 72 points still up for grabs and just 23 points separating leader Groupama, who took the overall lead at the end of leg seven, from fourth placed Camper. Still at this stage any of the top four boats could win....
Today after a short inshore course on Lisbon’s Tagus River, which memorably featured Portuguese soccer legend Luís Figo jumping off the stern of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, the fleet of six set off on the 1,940 mile leg.
While Leg 8 is the shortest of the race yet, it will by no means be straightforward. En route to Lorient, the boats must leave the Azores island of San Miguel to starboard and unfortunately because this is an Azores island there is often an area of high pressure sitting over it. On this occasion this is half true with the high parked just to the southwest of the San Miguel. However the boats look to be back on to a rollercoaster ride once they're round the turning mark and are en route to France, with a depression setting up off the Bay of Biscay creating a strong band of southwesterlies to propel them towards the finish line.
Groupama trimmer Charles Caudrelier said having the chance to cross the finish line at their home port in front of a home crowd as overall race leaders would be a dream come true, but it was one that would prove difficult to realise: “It's a dream that could quickly be broken by teams like Puma or Telefónica, for example, especially Puma who are doing very well now,. We’re not that far ahead either. Our goal is to win the next leg but it will be tough.”
Puma skipper Ken Read reckons the opening days of tight reaching towards the mark of São Miguel in the Azores would suit Groupama, but after that his team would be ready to pounce. “It’s going to be tight reaching in breeze and conditions that Groupama have been quite strong in, so we’re going to need a little help,’’ he said. “We’re going to try a few new things, but it hasn’t been our strongest condition, so we might be in a position where we have to just hang on in the tight reaching and hopefully in the power running after the Azores we’ll do some damage then.”
Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said every team will have to ask themselves just how hard they are prepared to push in the heavy conditions en route to France. “Boats will break, we’re hoping we’re not one of them, but boats will definitely break in those conditions. Or, you have to throttle back a long way. There’s a lot of risk and reward on this leg. "